Last year I posed the question to Jim, "If you thought you could take only one more trip, where would you go?" No long thinking process ensued, I promise. As if sitting on his tongue, waiting, "Italy" burst forth instantly. We have both developed a passion for this glorious Mediterrannean country and, thank god, are blessed to be able to return once again.
Our love affair with bella Italia began as soon as we first set foot in Rome over ten years ago. What became quickly apparent to us is that there is something breathtaking, something different and something unexpected around every corner. There is so much to Italy - food, wine, history, art, architecture, charming towns, stunning vistas.........the list is endless. It is small wonder that the poets Byron, Shelley and Keats were so drawn there.
Over the past ten years, we have covered much of Italy, but words from the Lonely Planet resonated with me. "Italy's north may have the euros, but the south has the soul. Beautifully sun bleached, weathered and worn, this is Italy at its most ancient, complex and seductive." Okay, Lonley Planet you got me at the word "soul".
And so this year's return will take Jim and I far south into Italy's boot, Calabria, Basilicata and Puglia - areas offering some of the most untouched parts of Italy. This is virgin territory for us and who can resist areas so ripe for exploration? Some of the country's cleanest saffire seas and sandy beaches are to be found here. Soaring mountains and cliffs await us in Calabria, the toe of the boot.
Basilicata, at the instep of the boot, is one of the least populated, smallest and least understood regions in the country. Why visit? Hidden in this remote arid landscape is the intriguing ancient city of Matera. I can't wait. For me, this visit to Matera is worth the whole trip.
Puglia, found at the heel of the country's boot, will change our vistas to ones of lush farmland, magical trulli and whitewashed towns.
Language may pose more of an issue in the boot than it does in the north, but Jim is boning up on his Italian and me, my hand signals. Thankfully, Italians are extremely accommodating of we Canadians fumbling with Italian phrases, grateful that we at least try. Once again, we will rent our own car and drive with, no doubt, a conga line of Mario Andretti wanna-be's following a mere paint coat behind our automobile. It's all part of the adventure! Pull over, let them by and most Italians will honk and wave their thank you's.
Five years ago saw our first visit to Venice. I may love Rome, but la Sirenuse stole my husband's heart. Jim voiced the wish to return, to live like a Venetian and to cook with a view overlooking the canals. Life is short. Let it be so. For our final eight days, we will fly to Venice, live in an apartment overlooking the confluence of three canals behind St. Mark's Square, visit the Rialto Market and live la vita del popolo.
Yup! You could say that Jim and I have una passione per Italia.. So please bear with me; the countdown is almost over. Sigh!